An urgent appeal has been launched in response to the recent brutal attack on the Okapi Wildlife Reserve headquarters – the Epulu Breeding and Research Station – in the Congo Basin.
A group of armed bandits or poachers attacked and killed at least seven staff members, some with extreme and inhumane cruelty, with others taken hostage from the UNESCO World Heritage site. Many remain unaccounted for.
All park infrastructure was destroyed and the 13 okapi*, a rare forest species from the giraffe family, were slaughtered. Epulu plays a pivotal role in the future survival of the okapi and is central in managing stock for global conservation breeding programmes of the species.
The day after the destruction of the Epulu HQ, UNESCO met with the Director of Okapi Wildlife Reserve as well as the Director General of the country’s protected areas authority (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature), to assess the situation and define the immediate response needs.
Fauna & Flora International have joined with UNESCO, partners in the Rapid Response Facility (RRF) initiative, to call for support amongst the global community in donating funds to rebuild demolished infrastructure, replace destroyed equipment and provide urgent support to the families of murdered park staff.
Fauna & Flora International Deputy Chief Executive Ros Aveling has launched a call for support, asking for urgent donations. “Please support this appeal in any way you can. The conservation front line can be a lonely, challenging place and the courageous people trying to re-establish wildlife protection in the wake of this trauma will be heartened by support from around the world.”
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* Post Script: Tuesday 10 July, 2012 Initial reports advising 13 okapi were killed in this raid have now been updated by staff in the field. We can now confirm 15 okapi were killed.